World News

Recession-hit Spain sees drop in migrants

MADRID (Reuters) - The number of African illegal immigrants trying to reach Spain has tumbled as the Spanish economy has slumped, Interior Ministry data showed on Friday.

Almost 4,500 immigrants were detected trying to get into Spain by boat, mainly from West and North Africa, in the first seven months of the year, down 40 percent on the same period last year and about a quarter of the number recorded in 2006.

In 2006, jobs on Spain’s then-booming construction sites were plentiful. Now Africans who make it to the country often find themselves relying on tips in return for distributing newspapers meant to raise money for the homeless.

In response to the surge in African immigration, Spain stepped up naval and coastguard patrols of its waters as well as repatriations of illegal migrants. This led to a steep fall in arrivals, a trend which has accelerated sharply during the recession.

Spain’s Canary Islands off the Moroccan coast in the Atlantic have seen a particularly significant fall in migrants risking their lives by attempting the dangerous sea crossing.

“For the first time in a decade, there have been months when no boats have reached the Canaries,” the ministry said in a statement.

Reporting by Itziar Reinlein; writing by Jonathan Gleave,